Our Steam Tug Forceful was built in 1925. Forceful served the port of Brisbane for 45 years, being the last coal fired tug in operation on the river. Upon being donated to the Museum, she was preserved as a working vessel, making regular trips down the Brisbane River to Moreton Bay. However, by 2006, the cost of maintaining her in sailing condition had become too high and she was converted into a static display here at the museum. She has recently been moved to “The Yard” for a total survey. She will remain there until we can raise funds to make repairs and repaint her.  After the work is completed she will once again be seaworthy and can be placed in a safe location.


Built by Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd of Govan, Glasgow, Scotland for the predecessors of Queensland Tug Company Pty Ltd, Forceful was launched in November, 1925. She departed Glasgow on 21 December, 1925 and arrived in Brisbane on 7 March, 1926.

In Brisbane, Forceful was employed mainly in the Brisbane River. In July, 1926, she went to the aid of Cooma, stranded on North Reef, off Heron Island. As the ship was being towed off the reef, the towline snapped and Cooma again grounded, where she remained until destroyed by fire some months later. In September, 1926, Forceful went to the aid of the Rio Claro, grounded on Scott’s Reef, near Cairns. Forceful teamed with another tug to tow Rio Claro off. Forceful’s finest hour was February, 1929 when she assisted towing the stricken steamer Arafura through a cyclone some 300km to Brisbane.

As a consequence of World War 2, Forceful was chartered by the British government for service in the Middle East. However, approval was withdrawn and she commissioned as HMAS Forceful on 16 February, 1942. She worked around Fremantle until October, 1942, when she sailed for Darwin. From October, 1942 to August, 1943, she engaged in harbour work around Darwin, towed lighters to Merauke in Dutch New Guinea and, on occasions, acted as a rescue vessel for aircraft and crews returning from bombing missions. In August, 1943, she towed a landing ship to Brisbane where, on 11 October, 1943, she paid off and returned to her owners.

The postwar years saw changes to the tug fleet in Brisbane, resulting in Forceful becoming the last coal-burning tug on the river in January, 1964. With the more efficient diesel engined tugs, Forceful’s work gradually decreased, with frequent periods when she was idle. On 28 September, 1970 she was retired from service.

Her life as a museum ship started on 10 June, 1971 when she was handed over to the Queensland Maritime Museum Association. Since that time she has remained a working part of Brisbane’s heritage, steamed and maintained by the dedicated members of the Association, purely on a voluntary basis. However, the cost of maintaining her sea-worthiness has become beyond the resources of the Museum and she will be maintained as a floating exhibit at her wharf.

Technical Details:

Launched: 20/11/1925
Tonnage: 288 gross tons
Length: 121ft (36.88m)
Beam: 27.1ft (8.26m)
Draught: 13.4ft (4.08m)
Speed: 13 knots
Machinery: 1 triple expansion steam engine with 3 cylinders and 2 single ended boilers each with 2 furnaces producing an indicated 1050HP. Working pressure – 175psi (1205.75 Kpa)
Bunker Capacities: 103 tons of coal and 78 tons of water
Coal Consumption: Approximately 10 tons per day


Forceful has historic significance as Queensland’s last remaining steam tug and as a representative example of the ships of its era, a reminder of the vital role played by shipping in the development of Brisbane and Queensland. The ship also has scientific significance because its coal-fired boilers and triple-expansion engine are rare surviving examples of this technology.